AUSTRALIANS Richie Porte and Cadel Evans are lining up as red-hot contenders for the 2014 Giro d'Italia crown, with Porte set to be given the green light to lead Team Sky next May.
Porte has played a central support role to British Sky teammates Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome in their 2012 and 2013 Tour de France titles, including notably sacrificing time in this year's 18th stage to fetch a suffering Froome crucial energy-boosting gels.
But with Wiggins' future now uncertain and assuming Froome takes a back seat to focus on preparing for next year's Tour, Porte will almost certainly be handed the licence to chase his first grand tour victory.
It will feel a fitting reward for the loyalty shown to the team by the 28-year- old, who signed a two-year contract extension in May.
He got his biggest endorsement for the gig yet this week when one of Sky's directors, Dan Hunt, said the Tasmanian had the credentials to win the toughest race on the calendar.
"He's ready to lead at a grand tour," Hunt said.
Porte will face stiff competition for the pink jersey from BMC rider Evans, after the 2011 Tour de France champion said he'd probably scrap what would have been his final Tour de France to target a final grand tour win in Italy.